FLASH IN THE PAN
Mark Steyn thinks Howard Dean is just that.
It is always slightly discombobulating when someone you’ve known for years and always written off as a mediocrity with no talents suddenly leaps to phenomenal success.
In my line of work, it’s usually some fellow hack whose first novel gets optioned by Miramax for Cameron Diaz. But right now it’s happening on a much larger scale to someone called Howard Dean. If you have never heard of him, don’t worry. You’ll soon be never hearing of him ever again. But just for the moment he is, improbably, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. As another famous Dean once sang, “Everybody loves somebody sometime,” and Howard Dean’s sometime is now. Go, Deano.
And I agree with the substance of this:
In a field split between five lackluster congressional sell-outs and three fringe whackos, he has done a superb job at positioning himself as the heart of the party. As he put it in his craftiest soundbite to date, he’s there to represent “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” These are the people who are fed up being told by the slick consultants that they need to make themselves more indistinguishable from the Republicans, and then they wind up losing anyway, as they did in 2000 and 2002. At least when Bill Clinton sold out the left on welfare and governed as an Eisenhower Republican, he was getting some terrific oral sex in return.
I think this is exactly why Dean is doing so well right now: He’s the red meat Democrat.
This is assessment is plausible and interesting, but I’d like to see some research on his fundraising to know whether it is actually true:
On “Meet The Press,” the would-be commander in chief didn’t know how many people were in the U.S. armed forces. Big deal. To his admirers, not knowing how many soldiers America has is a plus. To these guys, a lone GI would be one soldier too many.
But on the issues this crowd cares about, Mr. Dean is an expert. The reason he’s piling up all the big money from out of state boils down to two words: civil unions. Three years ago, Vermont became the first state in the nation to recognize a form of legal relationship for same-sex couples, and that puts Mr. Dean on the cutting edge of the issue du jour. Bringing civil unions to Vermont was “the most important event in my political life,” he says, though at the time he was going round the state telling folks he was only doing it because the Vermont Supreme Court made him, and, instead of the usual showboating public ceremony, he signed the legislation behind closed doors. But out in Hollywood all Barbra Streisand and the other high-rollers know is that, if gay marriage is your big priority rather than Iraq and national security and all the other trivia, then Mr. Dean’s your man. In a way, he is the first beneficiary of a prominent, organizationally effective, big-money gay bloc in the Democratic Party.
In fact, though it wasn’t designed with him in mind, Mr. Dean could have been custom-built for this election’s highly compressed primary season. Gay marriage is the perfect issue for long-distance pre-primary fund-raising, where he has managed to do serious and possibly fatal damage to Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Bob Graham. His general leftishness will play well with voters in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19, where he figures he can sink Dick Gephardt. His Vermontiness will appeal more to New Hampshire Democrats on Jan. 28 than John Kerry’s Massachusetts hauteur. By the time the big cluster of Sun Belt primaries rolls around on Feb. 3, Mr. Dean reckons he can use his record on gun control (Vermont has none) to ditch the Northeast liberal baggage and sell himself to Southern white males, seeing off his last opponent, North Carolina’s John Edwards.
Interesting. I’m still expecting Lieberman or Gephardt to make a better showing, as they strike me as the most plausible nominees. But this may indeed be a season where the Democratic nominating electorate is more visceral than logical.